Cooking and Being Green

By Nora Lopez

Brrrr … It’s cold!  I want to eat things that warm up my belly once I get home from work. But my schedule is pretty hectic. I am lucky, I only work 10 minutes from the office, but when I get home it is around 5:30 pm and I usually cook a real meal every night as we are not into picking up food on the way home… there is nothing like a home cooked meal! However, I do need to be out of the house by 6:30 pm to go to the gym, every night … a commitment I set for myself once the kids were out of the house 🙂  Dinner needs to be ready in one hour….oh and by the way, I just started a Paleo diet this week  (if you do not know what it is Google it… and it will open your eyes to a new way of cooking!).

So  what does my ordeal have anything to do with cooking and being green? Let me introduce you to my solution to the rat race: The CROCKPOT! I just put it on early in the morning, before I leave to go to work, and when I come in I have a meal ready, add a salad and voila! Yummy food 🙂   I am so much into it that I was trying to convince my sister to get one, but she was very hesitant … she lives in Puerto Rico and electricity is extremely expensive there. So she was concerned that having a Crockpot on all day would increase her electric bill.

So the scientist in me was turned on and went digging for information on the energy efficiency of this pot.  What I found was great information that says that it depends on your stove and type of fuel. The following table I found the most helpful because it was simple to understand. Obviously you need to adjust per your watt costs, but it gives you an idea of the energy consumption:

What I also found is that there are so many web sites for people who are concerned about the energy consumption issue; what is better or not; weighing the pros and cons, that it really made me feel good that so many people think about how our behavior can influence how we can save in energy resources.

As for my sister, once she saw all the information I gathered on how she would be saving money in electrical … she ran to the department store and got an energy efficient Crockpot and she invited me over to delicious pulled pork the next time I was in Puerto Rico.

My first convert! …. Anyone else?

About the Author: Nora works out of EPA’s Edison, New Jersey facility, where she manages the Region’s Toxics Release Inventory Program.  After work she can often be found channeling her inner chef.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Eco-friendly Weekend Activities

Cross Central Park Promenade Tour – You will see many surprises: a hidden bench that tells time, miniature boats powered by the wind, a magnificent sculpture celebrating fresh water. These are just some of the sites on this east-to-west walk through the Park. Sunday, February 3, 2:30 – 3:45 p.m.

Family Art Project at Wave Hill: March Out The Mardi Gras! Join visiting native New Orleans artist and instructor Paul Deo to make a colorful parasol, hat, nature mask or funky bead necklace. Then join an imaginative indoor parade as we create the sights, colors and sounds of the Mardi Gras at the Ecology Building in Wave Hill. Sunday, February 3, 10:00 a.m. –1:00 p.m.

Fix Your Bike Workshop: Come learn how to fix bikes, do simple maintenance and tune-ups at the Time’s Up bike mechanic skill share. Sunday, February 3, 6:00 p.m.

NYC Audubon Winter EcoCruise: Step aboard the New York Water Taxi for a winter adventure in New York Harbor! Look for harbor seals on the rocky shores of Governors Island and the more remote Hoffman and Swinburne Islands. Learn about the surprisingly diverse winter birds of New York City, including ducks, geese, loons, and sandpipers – many of which migrate south from the Arctic Circle. Dress warmly and bring your binoculars because there will be plenty to see! Departs Pier 17, South Street Seaport. Sunday, February 3, 2:00 –4:00 p.m.

The Butterfly Conservatory: Tropical Butterflies Alive in Winter – Ready for summer? Stop by the American Museum of Natural History this weekend to frolic with 500 butterfly specimens in a balmy 80 degree vivarium. Saturday-Sunday, February 2-3, 10:00 a.m. – 5:45 p.m.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Winter is a Great Time to Test your Home for Radon!

By Larainne Koehler

January is National Radon Action Month.

The hustle and bustle of the holidays is over and, here in New York City, we are having some of the coldest weather in years.  Our doors and windows are closed against the cold, and that’s one of the first steps in getting a good results from a radon test.

By now some of you are asking – “What is radon and why do you need a test for it?”  Others are remembering that they have heard about it, but haven’t taken action yet – what are you waiting for?

Radon is a radioactive gas that comes from the decay of naturally occurring radium and uranium in the earth.  It is the second leading cause of lung cancer overall and the LEADING cause in non-smokers.  The EPA estimates that as many as 21,000 lung cancer deaths a year are caused by radon.  Radon is colorless and odorless, so the only way to know if your home has a problem is to test for it.

The EPA and the US Surgeon General recommend testing all homes below the third floor for radon and if the levels are high, take steps to lower them.  Now you may be thinking  – “How do I find a test?”  Ready for that one – New Yorkers can get a test kit from the New York State Radon Program by going to their website and downloading an application.  The cost is only $8.50 per test kit.  Follow the instructions and send the kit back to the lab for analysis.   If you are a New Yorker at heart, but not actually living in New York State, you can also get test kits for $15 through the National Radon Program Services at Kansas State University at http://sosradon.org/test-kits

So take a step to protect your health and order a test kit today.  Get more information at www.epa.gov/radon.

About the author: Larainne Koehler is the Radon and Indoor Air Coordinator for EPA Region 2 and has been working on issues associated with indoor air and radon since she joined the agency in 1984.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Recycling Sandy’s Trees

In response to Hurricane Sandy, EPA has been supporting FEMA and working closely with federal agencies and the states of New Jersey and New York to assess damage and respond to environmental concerns. In some areas, storm damage is widespread and the first and immediate priority is the protection of people’s health and their safety. To see more about EPA’s activities in response to Hurricane Sandy please visit www.epa.gov/sandy

Using a portable sawmill to cut the logs. EPA photo via Stan Stephansen

By Stan Stephansen

The headlines read “Hurricane Sandy Downs Thousands of Trees, creates havoc and destruction,”  “Record number of trees downed by Hurricane Sandy,” “10,000 trees downed in NYC alone.”  What a waste, or is it?

What happened to all those trees?  Are they still lying on the ground?  Were they cut up and carted off to take up space at the landfill?  Or is there some way these trees could be reused and recycled?

I asked myself that same question several years ago when I needed to remove several oak trees that were either dying or dangerously close to my house.  It turns out that, yes, indeed, many of the downed trees can and should be recycled and re-purposed.   I was able to turn the downed trees into structural timbers, flooring, molding, and bookshelves.  The large branches were cut into firewood and the smaller branches and leaves were turned into mulch.  I also replanted trees, but this time further away from the house.

The first step in tree recycling is to evaluate the trees and determine which ones are good candidates for recycling.  Generally, the tree should be healthy, not rotten, with few embedded objects like nails, of good size with a straight trunk and few low branches.  Right off I was able to save hundreds of dollars by not having the tree service cut up the tree trunks for subsequent trucking and disposal at the landfill.

Next step is to have the logs cut into rough lumber for subsequent reuse.  This can be accomplished by using a portable sawmill, or in my case having someone with a portable sawmill come to the location and cut the logs into rough boards of the appropriate dimensions.  For flooring and molding, I had the logs cut into boards about one and one half inches thick, which I then loaded onto a trailer and delivered to a regional sawmill in the Catskills for subsequent drying and finishing (surface planing and grooving), so that the final product was beautiful 5 inch wide red and white oak flooring ready to be put down in my bedroom and walk-in closet.  Other finished boards were used for molding around new windows and doors.  Another approach is to simply truck the logs to the sawmill for rough cutting, drying, and finishing.  Two sources of information I found useful were the book “Harvesting Urban Timber, A Complete Guide” by Sam Sherrill and “Recycling Municipal Trees, A Guide for Marketing Sawlogs from Street Tree Removals in Municipalities”.

With all of the downed trees from Hurricane Sandy, and thousands of downed trees expected from future storms, it may be more efficient and sustainable to try and recycle these logs on a more local or regional level.  Partnerships could be developed with municipalities, homeowners, utility companies, parks departments, recycling departments, nonprofits, and trade and technical schools to help create local jobs to help improve both the local economy and the environment.

About the author: Stan Stephansen is a Scientist in the EPA Region 2 office in Manhattan.  Stan has worked for EPA for 23 years in a variety of positions.  In his current capacity, Stan is working with our partner states to help municipalities develop plans to reduce sewage overflows caused by heavy wet weather events.  Prior to EPA, Stan worked as a geophysicist and computer analyst/programmer.  Stan is a graduate of Brooklyn College and currently resides in Wayne, NJ.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

The Really “Stinky” Christmas Tree

By Marcia Anderson

Last year, my husband and son went on their annual Christmas tree hunt. They came home with a lovely tree that was home to our lights, ornaments and garland, and it filled our home with the fresh scent of spruce.  Christmas came and went, and the tree dried out. While taking off the lights and ornaments, I found a few “shield shaped” bugs on the branches. For the next four months my house was overrun with the most putrid smelling bugs that I ever encountered.

When my husband brought the tree in from the cold outdoors, the stink bugs awoke from their winter slumber. As long as the tree was fresh, the stink bugs blissfully drank its sap.  However, as the tree dried, the sap was no longer available, so the stink bugs migrated all over the house looking for another meal. They targeted bathrooms and the kitchen which have ready water sources, and rooms with houseplants. They even swam in the dogs’ water dish. All winter long I battled stink bugs. They made the vacuum smell. The dog stank. I soon found the easiest way to get rid of them was to give them an eternal swim in the porcelain whirlpool.

Want to avoid a winter long battle? Bring a strong flashlight with you when you are selecting your tree. Check carefully on the trunk and undersides of the branches for the brown, ugly bugs. If you squeeze them you will quickly learn where they get their name.

Advice: Find them? Then find a different tree.

Stink bugs got their name from the rotting smell they give off when threatened or crushed. Continue reading

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Answering Fears of Students about Bed Bugs in their City Schools

By Marcia Anderson

Byron e-mails: “Today every student on my team at school received a letter about inspectors spotting a bed bug in one of our classrooms. They said they will not issue a pest control spray because it is just a small case of one bed bug… I don’t want to go to school until the pests are clear, but sadly that’s part of my life and I have to go. What can I do to keep these disgusting creatures out of my home?!”

Anna writes: “…My school has a bed bug infestation because of what I found last week in class. I was at my table when I found a bedbug crawling on the desk. I immediately killed it and blood came out of it. It was small so there must be more. What can I do? I already advised some teachers and students as well as my principal but (they) have not done anything? What should I do?”

Dear Byron and Anna,

Your school administrators are correct advising parents to be on the lookout for bed bugs that may hitch a ride to school. However, the sighting of one bed bug does not mean that there is an infestation at your schools. Chances are that the bed bug(s) hitchhiked in from a student or staff member that either has bed bugs at home, or picked them up on the way to school.

Your administrators were being cautious about applying chemicals in a school that may not have an infestation. Although it is important to keep schools free of pests, many pesticides are inherently toxic and may have potential health risks, especially when used in the vicinity of children. Because humans and pests depend on the same food chain, it is not surprising that the use of chemicals that are intended to kill pests comes with some unknown risks to people. Sprayed pesticides may become airborne and settle on toys, desks, counters, shades and walls. Children and staff may breathe in contaminated air or touch contaminated surfaces and unknowingly expose themselves to invisible residues. Accumulations of pesticides can linger for months beyond the initial application. The proper course of action is to investigate the extent of the pest problem and then use the least toxic steps to mitigate the problem, such as barriers, sanitation and maintenance prior to pesticide applications, if needed. This is called Integrated Pest Management (IPM) which is mandated for schools in many states and practiced in New York City schools. Vacuuming, steam cleaning, the use of hot dryers, plastic boxes for storage, and removing clutter where pests may harbor is the preferred action for single bed bug sightings in schools. Continue reading

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.